Rethinking Sustainability Through Environmental Justice Discourse & Knowledge Production: Institutional Environmental Violence Through the Lens of the Flint Water Crisis
Sustainability and environmental justice, two fields that developed parallel to each other, are both insufficient to deal with the challenges posed by institutional environmental violence (IEV). This thesis examines the discursive history of sustainability and critiques its focus on science-based technical solutions to large-scale global problems. It further analyzes the gaps in sustainability discourse that can be filled by environmental justice, such as the challenges posed by environmental racism. Despite this, neither field is able to contend with IEV in a meaningful way, which this thesis argues using the case study of the Flint Water Crisis (FWC). The FWC has been addressed as both an issue of sustainability and of environmental justice, yet IEV persists in the community. This is due in part to the narrative of crisis reflected by the FWC and the role that knowledge production plays in that narrative. To fill the gap left by both sustainability and environmental justice, this thesis emphasizes the need for a transformational methodology incorporating knowledge produced by communities and individuals directly impacted by sustainability problems.